UK Proposes Hydrogen-Ready Domestic Boilers from 2026 to Cut Emissions

Nearly 23% of UK emissions are due to the heating needs of buildings

December 19, 2022


The United Kingdom government has proposed to phase out the installation of natural gas-only boilers from 2035 to ensure that almost all domestic heating systems in use by 2050 are low-carbon.

The proposal further said that starting in 2026, all new domestic natural gas-fired boilers sold must be hydrogen-ready. The hybrid systems would reduce consumption and emissions, improve energy security, and prepare for the transition to low-carbon heating.

Nearly 30% of the country’s emissions emanate from 30 million buildings. A large portion (79%) of these emissions is directly attributable to heating needs. For the UK to achieve net zero, it’s necessary for almost all buildings to fully decarbonize.

Hydrogen-ready boilers can burn natural gas and be converted to use hydrogen in the future. Using these boilers in the mid-2020s could save costs by avoiding replacing natural gas-only boilers before they reach the end of their lifespan, even if only part of the gas grid is converted to hydrogen.

Mandating hydrogen-ready boilers can help industries prepare supply chains to make the most of the potential transition to hydrogen.

Stakeholders can submit their comments on the proposal by March 21, 2023.

Each year, up to 1.7 million domestic-scale natural gas boilers are installed in the UK. Even with the increased use of heat pumps, it is expected that a minimum of 10 million more domestic gas boilers will be installed between 2025 and 2035.

This is subject to regulatory standards and price competitiveness with existing boilers.

The government wants to ensure that consumers will not pay more for hydrogen-ready boilers than they would for natural gas boilers and that these boilers meet efficiency and regulatory standards.

The government is conducting research, development, and testing to evaluate the feasibility, costs, and benefits of using 100% hydrogen for heating in buildings. This work builds on previous research, including the Hy4Heat hydrogen innovation program, which concluded in March 2022.

The program examined the safety and feasibility of using hydrogen for heat in homes and developed prototype hydrogen-compatible heating appliances, hydrogen gas meters, safety assessments for various domestic buildings, and technical standards and studies. However, replacing natural gas with 100% hydrogen is not a viable option for decarbonizing heating in buildings at a large scale.

Further, the UK government is considering using hydrogen to decarbonize industry, heavy transport, and power, but there is no guarantee that hydrogen-ready boilers will be converted.

It is supporting low-carbon hydrogen production through the Net Zero Hydrogen Fund and hydrogen business model, intending to have 2 GW of production capacity in operation or construction by 2025. The British Energy Security Strategy also aims to produce up to 10 GW of hydrogen in the UK by 2030, with at least half coming from electrolytic hydrogen.

The European Commission approved the second phase of the Important Project of Common European Interest to support research, innovation, and the first industrial deployment of the hydrogen technology value chain in Europe.

A report by the International Renewable Energy Agency said that the hydrogen trade would significantly contribute to a more diversified and resilient energy system. However, the costs of producing and trading green hydrogen must be lower than domestic production to offset higher transport costs and make hydrogen trade cost-effective.